They Know His Voice
In John 10, Jesus talks about Himself as the Shepherd and us as His sheep. In the analogy of the shepherd/sheep, He explains that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.
In talking with other believers, however, I have found that we rarely seem to understand what the voice of Jesus is, and how we can know it. Recently, another blogger even posted a couple essays (with a debate ensuing in the comments forum) complaining about people who claim that God has spoken to them. The points made usually have to do with some of the following:
- God doesn't care what you eat for breakfast, so don't tell me that God leads you in those little areas of life.
- Any revelation outside of Scripture is suspect, so therefore, stay away from "personal revelation."
- Those "promptings" that you feel inside are quite possibly just you having an idea using common sense, so don't credit God with it.
Well, interestingly enough, I once wrote an essay called "Quit Blaming God", and today I want to take the opposite approach and say, "Quit denying it's God!" This idea that God doesn't want to speak to you personally is not only very sad, but according to the way I read the statements of Jesus, it is unbiblical. Setting up straw men such as "God doesn't care what you eat for breakfast" is not a good way to approach the argument.
When we see verses in Scripture such as Psalm 37:23 ("The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord") and 1 Corinthians 10:31 ("...Do it all for the glory of God"), I think we have to conclude that God really is interested in what we do with our life. And juxtaposing that with Jesus' comments about us hearing His voice, we have to conclude that, at least at some level, God is going to be speaking to us. I'm not trying to just twist some proof text out of Scripture, but I believe that the whole scope of Scripture gives us a story of a God Who is very personally interested in the lives of His children.
I find that the opponents of the idea that God speaks to us today often base it on the fact that they personally have not experienced what they believe to be God speaking. And while they're often quick to deny that they are ruling out the possibility of God speaking personally to someone, they still end up denying it with their arguments.
One writer commented that when God spoke to people in Scripture, it was very clear that God was speaking, and there was no chance that the message would not be heard. The example is sometimes given of God speaking to Abraham and telling him to move to the Promised Land. Or God speaking to Jonah and telling him to go to Ninevah. Or...
But here are the problems that I have with that, and I think this issue is something that needs to be considered carefully. First of all, not every place that God speaks to someone, even in the Old Testament, is it specifically stated that God spoke audibly. We know from Scripture that God spoke in different ways. Sometimes He spoke through dreams. Sometimes He spoke through an angel that appeared physically in front of the person, etc.. So, it is difficult to specify a finite set (or closed set) of methods through which God speaks.
The second issue I have is that these major examples of God speaking audibly, etc., are from the Old Testament. We must (and I can't stress "must" enough) realize that Christ's appearance on this earth changed a lot of things. Consider this progression:
- God asked Israel to come to the mountain so He could speak personally to the whole nation
- Israel was scared and asked Moses to speak/listen for them, and they would obey Moses
- A whole line of prophets resulted, wherein God spoke to one person, and that person communicated His words to the people (The prophet was "the man of God", and he said, "This is what the Lord says to you")
- Jesus comes, not speaking the words of God, but as the Word of God. (Jesus was not simply "the man of God", He was "man and God". He didn't say, "This is what the Lord says to you." He said, "This is what I say to you.")
So, then, Jesus says that we would follow Him and listen to Him because we know His voice. Then, He goes on in John 14:26 to say that He would give us the Holy Spirit, Who would "teach [us] all things." So, those "promptings" or "gut feelings" we have inside? Why just write them off as our own thoughts? Why not trust that God is actually speaking to us?
Let me give you an example which some might dismiss as just strange or wacky, but which illustrates my point:
Last year, I was practicing my golf swing in the field across the road from our house. I sometimes go out there with four or five balls, hit them all one particular direction, gather them up, hit them back the other way, etc. Sometimes, when the grass is longer, however, as it was this particular day, it's relatively easy to lose a ball down in the grass. In those instances, to avoid causing problems for the crew that mows the field, I stop and hunt for the ball until I find it.
On this one particular occasion, I was searching for a lost ball in the general area in which I thought it went. I must have searched for about 10 or 15 minutes without any success. I walked back and forth, back and forth, very methodically covering a wide area around the spot I thought the ball had gone. With every step, I brushed away dead grass to see if the ball was beneath it, probed the live grass with my club to see if the ball had gone all the way down to the ground beneath, etc. Nothing. I expanded my area of search, and again continued to carefully search every square inch of that area. Still nothing.
At this point, I came to a decision. Jesus told us that God notices when a small bird falls to the ground. I knew that there was One Who knew exactly where my golf ball was, and so I decided to ask Him. "Lord," I prayed, "I know this is a rather trivial matter, but I do not want to leave this golf ball out in the grass to potentially damage the mower or cause damage to something else. I know that You know where the ball is, and I need you to guide me to it."
Instantly, and I do mean instantly, I experienced what I believe was the leading of the Lord. Call it whatever you want to: a gut feeling, a sudden thought -- whatever it was, I suddenly knew to walk directly to a spot that was not even anywhere close to my search area. (My shot had been a lot worse than I realized!) I didn't have to walk back and forth until I reached that point. I just immediately walked diagonally from where I had been searching to this spot, stopped, looked down, and saw the golf ball lying right beside my foot.
Now, the question I want to ask is, why should I not give God credit for that? Why should I say, "Oh, I guess my subconscious mind just finally remembered where the shot had landed, and I went there on my own?" To say that was not God leading me, or speaking to me, seems to me to be very calloused and almost blasphemous. It would be similar, in my mind, to someone saying to Jesus, "Lord, heal me of this awful disease", and then when He healed them, saying, "Wow, that medicine the doctor gave me was so wonderful that it took my disease away."
So where am I going with all this? Well, maybe I need to write a part 2 to this essay, since it's already quite lengthy, and I'm not sure I've said even half of what is on my heart. The point is, for Christians to say that they don't believe God speaks today through anything but the Bible, and/or that He only speaks about things that are "significant", I think we cut off a huge part of the relationship that God wants us to have with Him. Why else would He go to such great lengths to finally circumvent the whole "prophet/thus saith the Lord" situation that Israel had requested? Is it not obvious that God wants to speak to us, and wants us to listen to Him?
This perhaps, then, begs the question: How do we know the voice of God? I think I will go ahead and write a part 2 in the days ahead and try to answer that question on some levels.
Until next time,